Moisture Control, Pipe Bags and the MP Watertrap
Controlling the moisture that collects in your bagpipe as a result of your blowing moist air into it is a very important part of maintaining a steady and reliable instrument.
Moisture can collect on reeds and adversely affect their performance so that the pipes won’t stay in tune. Moisture also condenses inside the drone bores, accumulating there until it beads up and runs down into the reeds. This can happen after as little as 25 minutes of playing in a cool environment.
"Excellent product. I have installed the first three I purchased and I love them. Clearly the best watertrap I have used in just shy of 50 years of piping."
St. James, NY
Some people require more moisture control than others. For some pipers, a simple tube watertrap (below) will suffice. But for many the Ross Canister Bag is the best solution.
"I just wanted to pass along my satisfaction with your water trap. It is a simple device, but it has all the right fittings to make it stay connected and it does a great job of collecting moisture. I have been using this with my Ross canister and it has certainly stabilized my tuned pipes...not sure if it is the chanter reed that is more stable or the drone reeds, but it sure is a treat to return to the ground of a piobaireachd with the pipes still solidly in tune. I was so pleased, I have already received two more water traps from you, one for Amy and a second one for an "ivory-free set" to be used when travelling to the US."
The McGillivray Piping Watertrap
Simple but effective tube watertraps like this one have been used for decades to control moisture being blown into the bag. Getting it designed just right so that it doesn't come loose, doesn't restrict blowing, doesn't drip onto one spot on the bag, and actually does collect water is difficult. This one took me 20 years of tweaking as a professional player to get just right! The elbow joint is equipped with a rubber sleeve to fit snugly over the blowpipe stock to avoid possible stock-cracking caused by hemped tenons. From here the tube runs along the bottom of the bag right up to the top back corner. It catches not only saliva, but also water vapour that condenses inside the tube. To empty it, you remove the blowstick and turn the whole bagpipe upside down.
I play one of these with a Ross canister system. I don't use the chanter hose, and the tube trap catches a good deal of moisture and keeps my chanter reed from getting soaked.
Comes with instructions.
"The amount of water that this thing dumps is unbelievable! Easily twice as much as others I have tried. It certainly added quality time to my practice before saturation took over. The "elbow/cup" is a thing of beauty. Well done!"
"I have the MP Watertrap and it works great for me. I purchased the watertrap from you a few years ago. The Watertrap does not affect the pipes as other watertraps I have found restrict the airflow. A very good product!"
McGillivray Piping Watertrap
CAD $35, see shopping cart at bottom
The Ross Suede Zip Bag and Canister System
With the Ross Canister System, moist air must pass through the desiccant canister before it reaches the drones or chanter.
As the accompanying photos show, the Ross canister system is elaborate and ingenious. It is highly recommended if you own a set of vintage pipes.
The Ross system was developed by Geoff Ross in Australia to help pipers deal with the age-old problems of moisture collecting on the outsides of reeds or beading up inside the drone bores and running down the drones into the reeds. These problems have ruined countless solo and pipe band performances.
The Ross bag with canister system is fitted on the inside with a small box filled with a desiccant (a material able to absorb moisture from breath). Tubes connect the canister to the various stocks. The principle is that air being blown into the bag cannot pass to the reeds without first passing through the desiccant in the canister and having most of the moisture removed. What seems like an unusual solution to the moisture problem works like a charm.
Stocks fit into the Ross bag with hose clamps. The 'Livingstone small' Ross bag is an extra-small bag great for pipers 5' "7 and under.
Each bag has a zippered opening that allows the piper to enter the bag and replace a saturated canister with a spare dry one (included). The entire unit is guaranteed for a year.
How do you know if you need a Canister system? If you frequently have unsteady or stopping drones due to wet reeds, or a wet and mouldy chanter reed, the Canister system is for you. If you don't, stick with what you have. Try this: after you’ve played your pipes for at least 35 minutes, remove the top of your outside tenor drone. Place your little finger up into the tuning chamber. If your finger comes out wet, you have a moisture issue to deal with!
The zipper on the Ross bag is airtight, reliable and durable. The canister has no sharp edges that might harm the inside of the bag.
Ross Canister Bags come in four sizes: small, medium, large, and an extremely comfortable extra-small size (also known as the "Livingstone Small," named after a well known friend of mine who used to have these custom made). By far the majority of pipers will use a small. See Bagpipe Selection and Fit for more details on sizing. Very few pipers will use a large. See Bag Covers and Cords for information on custom-fitted bag covers.
I have played a Ross bag and canister system for more than 20 years. In my opinion, Geoff has created not only the most efficient moisture control system on the market, but also the most comfortable bag. Personally, I use the system without the chanter hose, but I use a McGillivray Piping watertrap to keep the chanter reed from getting wet and as an extra element of moisture control.
Note that the canister system does not automatically come with the Ross bag. It is an add-on that you must request.
Ross Canister Bag Sizes
Extra-Small, Extended Small, Extended Small Special**, Medium, Large
**The Extended Small Special is the same as the Extended Small, but the stocks are moved forward 3/4 of an inch.
Offered with pipe sales only
Offered with pipe sales only